Journal Article

Are investments to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services aligned?

Stephen Polasky, Kris Johnson, Bonnie Keeler, Kent Kovacs, Erik Nelson, Derric Pennington, Andrew J. Plantinga and John Withey

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 28, issue 1, pages 139-163
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI:
Are investments to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services aligned?

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  • Environmental Economics
  • Renewable Resources and Conservation


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The conservation community is divided over the proper objective for conservation, with one faction focused on ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being and another faction focused on the intrinsic value of biodiversity. Despite the underlying difference in philosophy, it is not clear that this divide matters in a practical sense of guiding what a conservation organization should do in terms of investing in conservation. In this paper we address the degree of alignment between ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation strategies, using data from the state of Minnesota, USA. Minnesota voters recently passed an initiative that provides approximately $171m annually in dedicated funding for conservation. We find a high degree of alignment between investing conservation funds to target the value of ecosystem services and investing them to target biodiversity conservation. Targeting one of these two objectives generates 47–70 per cent of the maximum score of the other objective. We also find that benefits of conservation far exceed the costs, with a return on investment of between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1 in our base-case analysis. In general, investing in conservation to increase the value of ecosystem services is also beneficial for biodiversity conservation, and vice-versa.

Keywords: biodiversity; ecosystem services; conservation; land use; carbon sequestration; water quality; Q57; Q24; Q25; Q51

Journal Article.  11326 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Economics ; Renewable Resources and Conservation

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